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Aposematism and crypsis in a rodent: antipredator defence of the Norwegian lemming
Responsible organisation
2015 (English)In: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, ISSN 0340-5443, E-ISSN 1432-0762, Vol. 69, no 4, 571-581 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Aposematism is unusual in herbivorous mammals, and exceptions help clarify its ecology and evolution. The Norwegian lemming differs from other rodents in colouration and behaviour. One hypothesis is that its black, yellow and white colours, loud calls and ferocious defence reduce predation by conspicuous aposematism. Another hypothesis is that the colouration is cryptic. These alternatives are tested in a detectability experiment comparing lemmings and sympatric grey-sided voles. All 18 observers detected a higher proportion of the lemmings, corroborating conspicuousness. Unlike smaller rodents, Norwegian lemmings often call from a distance at predators. The aposematism hypothesis predicts that cryptically coloured Alaskan brown lemmings will not call. In the field, Norwegian lemmings gave antipredator calls at a human observer in 36 of 110 encounters, but brown lemmings did so in only 1 of 39 cases. Most Norwegian lemmings called if surprised within a few metres but froze or fled silently farther away, relying on crypsis against distant predators. Small juveniles called as often as adults, a possible case of auto-mimicry. In an earlier experiment, Norwegian lemmings, in contrast with grey-sided voles, aggressively resisted attacks by a major avian predator of rodents. The tests corroborate the hypotheses that (1) distinctive, contrast-rich colouration, antipredator calls and threat postures of the Norwegian lemming form a multimodal suit of aposematic traits, warning predators that this is a more dangerous prey than the smaller sympatric voles, and (2) discriminability from undefended species is an important adaptive reason for conspicuous distinctness of many aposematic signals.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 69, no 4, 571-581 p.
National Category
Natural Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:polar:diva-3730DOI: 10.1007/s00265-014-1868-7OAI: oai:DiVA.org:polar-3730DiVA: diva2:1105300
Available from: 2017-06-02 Created: 2017-06-02 Last updated: 2017-06-02

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Publisher's full texthttp://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00265-014-1868-7
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Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
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CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf